I never understood the contention that there were too many frivolous medical-negligence lawsuits. We turn down potential clients looking to sue their doctors all the time because: (a) bad results do not necessarily equal negligence; (b) Florida has legislatively enacted caps or limits to non-economic medical malpractice damages – so liability must be clear and damages must be high; (c) being that doctors are held in such high esteem, juries really don’t like returning favorable verdicts against them; and (d) it is REALLY expensive to engage in medical-malpratice litigation -i.e. hiring respected medical experts, lots of depositions, etc.. can put a medical-negligence attorney’s costs over six figures.
Personal injury attorneys keep the medical community honest – or at the very least bring these kinds of problems (that otherwise might get swept under the rug) the attention they deserve… and most of the time medical malpractice cases fail! In fact, according to a Harvard University Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors and their insurance companies mostly win claims brought against them (only 1 in 5 end with some form of payment – i.e. via a jury verdict or out-of-court settlement).
The Harvard Study article is quoted as saying:
Given the expense and other difficulties involved in winning, it’s doubtful most claims are filed on a greedy whim, the researchers said.
Here is a link to the actual New England Journal of Medicine study.
An April 2011 issue of Health Affairs gave us some shocking news: The publication found, …adverse event detection methods commonly used to track patient safety in the United States today … fared poorly compared to other methods and missed 90 percent of the adverse events…. Overall, adverse events occurred in one-third of hospital admissions. (emphasis added)
What does the study mean by adverse events? The big three types of mistakes found were:
1. Infections (that the patient did not walk into the hospital with). These hospital-acquired infections are often the result of unsanitary conditions in the hospital.
2. Medication/Prescription Errors. Many patients were found to have received the wrong drug dosage or the wrong drug altogether.
3. Errors during Surgery. This includes leaving equipment inside of a patient’s body and performing surgery on the wrong body part.
So who is to blame? Are plaintiff’s lawyers orchestrating these mistakes as part of a broad conspiracy to drum up business? Of course not. Yet personal-injury attorneys are villified when all they do is create a check on the medical system. By the way, you cannot successfully sue doctors or hospitals simply for bad results. There are very serious risks inherent with any medical procedure. But administering the wrong medication, performing surgery on the wrong part of the body, or substantially deviating from the applicable standard of care is inexcusable.
Written by: Jason Neufeld, with contribution by David Kleinberg.
NKP serves their injured clients statewide with offices in South and Central Florida. The firm’s attorneys specialize in personal-injury cases, including: high-profile automobile negligence and defective design cases. NK&P’s practice area include automobile and motorcycle accidents; medical malpractice; premises liability; defective products; brain injury; and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).